Europe 2014 – Granada and the Alhambra

Blog Post 7-14-14

Timeline: June 27th -30t

We were a little nervous as we boarded the bus to go into town for our Sunday visit to the Alhambra.  The City of Granada was switching over its bus routes that morning, and we were uncertain as to how smoothly that would go.  Our bus from camp was not affected; it was part of a regional system that interacts with, but is not a part of the city system.  This has been often been the case in the cities we have camped in.

It was a gorgeous morning, traffic light it being Sunday.  As we sat at the stop, quite a few cyclists rode by in both directions, many heading down the hill towards town.  It would have been a nice time to ride but we had sightseeing on the agenda.  Our bus arrived and took us to the normal stop and we then walked to where we thought the new stop would be, joining a number of local citizens already there.  We saw the brand new bus with our line number, the LAC, approaching and the driver, not slowing down, motioned to us that our stop was a block away.

We walked over to the stop and soon thereafter another came along (every three minutes as had been promised) and dropped us off on the Gran Via, where there was a transit worker waiting to give out information to those in need.  We asked her, just to confirm, which of the two shuttles would be the best to take to the Alhambra and she responded line C4, not the one the Alhambra information clerk had recommended, which was C3.

Undaunted we walked the couple of blocks to Plaza Isabel la Catolica, confirmed that both the C3 and C4 ran that morning and then walked up Calle Reyes Catolicos towards Plaza Nueva to a café I’d spotted the day before for some fuel, two cups of coffee and a very good pastry.  Finished, we walked back down to the plaza and jumped on the first bus that came, the C3, which then wound up the hill through tight and narrow streets to the main entrance of the Alhambra.

Alhambra Plan (1)

Alhambra Plan (1)

This immense complex, begun just prior to 900 as a fort was modified and expanded for a couple hundred years until 1333 when Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada converted it into a royal palace.  After the Reconquista in 1492, Charles V built a large palace on the site of some Moorish ruins; its courtyard and interior space are now used as a concert venue and the Museum of the Alhambra, respectively.

We started with the Generalife gardens and house, then worked our way towards the Nasrid Palace for our timed entry at 1:00pm.  It is difficult to describe how powerful and overwhelming visiting this place can be.  It is an immense property, with many buildings and gardens to visit.  We spent over six hours there, didn’t dawdle much, on the go most of the time.  With the exception of the Palace of Charles the Fifth, the complex is dominated by Moorish architecture and design elements, all of it fantastic and very representative of the Muslim philosophy influencing itscreation.

Generalife Gardens

Generalife Gardens

Natural light and water play an important role in the daily life of Muslims and their buildings are built to use both features to the greatest extent.  It is important to remember that most of the spaces at the Alhambra, with the exception of the Alcazaba (the oldest building constructed as a for), were built as palaces and don’t necessarily reflect life for a regular citizen.  That being said, when you’ve spent nearly two months on the road visiting the palaces of European royalty, these settings provide a startling contrast into the way different societies approach life.

Courtyard in Nasrid Palace

Courtyard in Nasrid Palace

The interiors of the palaces are decorated in a characteristic style for this type of building, that is, Arabic inscriptions that are manipulated into geometric patterns.  Painted tiles are largely used as paneling for the walls.  For some the style is quite busy compared to the plain wall designs typically employed by western cultures, which are then covered with paintings, photos, or as European high society did, with tapestries.

Looking towards the Generalife Section

Looking towards the Generalife Section

I’ve found the website of a couple, Dick and Jane Schmitt from Houston, Texas who appeared to have done quite a bit of traveling, took pictures and then created little mini-travelogues of these fabulous places.  If you are interested in the Alhambra, I invite you to click on one of the links (Alhambra Palace and/or Generalife Gardens) below to see the many photos and descriptions they have posted, far better than I could do in this blog.

From the Alcazar

From the Alcazar

Leaving the site feeling we’d had a very full experience, we took the shuttle down the hill and began our walk, about a half-mile, to the bus stop for our return journey.  We figured we’d stop at the Mercadona like the day before and pick up dinner ingredients for a meal back at camp.

Being Sunday though, it was closed and faced with the prospect of buying ingredients from the limited options available at Reina Isabel, we decided to double back to a place we’d seen while walking that had an interesting combo meal for something like six euros; a fried egg with ham on top of a bowl of French fries, like something you might find at KFC, and two beers.  We couldn’t resist.  As bad as it sounded, it was quite good in reality and very filling.

We returned to camp for another night sitting around the table in the restaurant courtyard, talking with Julius and Mike, enjoying a warm summer night and the good conversation that makes an evening fly by.  There are some days on the road that are just good.  This was one of them.

Happy Campers at Generalife

Happy Campers at Generalife


Granada Transit:

The Alhambra:

The Alhambra:

Alhambra Palace:

Generalife Gardens:

Palace of Charles the Fifth: and

(1) Alhambra Plan: “116 Tafel 6 Grenada Alhambra – Plano del Palacio Arabe” by Constantin Uhde – Constantin Uhde, Baudenkmäler in Spanien und Portugal. Aufnahmen einer Reise 1888-1889. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

One comment

  1. Herr Angst · · Reply

    Well, I’m certainly having fun with your blog nowadays. Maybe it was specially enhanced by your visit to the Alhambra, which I’ve always loved and have always felt is one of the very special places in the world. That photo of Jerry and Joanna in the archway with the valley and blue sky below is fantastic. I vote that you have a hard copy made of it and hang it from your living room wall upon return home.

    Vaya con gusto.

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